The Nigerian Senate on Thursday passed a bill seeking to cater for the safety, health and welfare of Nigerian workers. The bill has already sailed through the lower House of Representatives and now requires harmonisation by a joint committee of the National Assembly before it is en President Goodluck Jonathan’s signature to become law.
The Bill, at the Senate was sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu (APGA-Imo) and was read for the third time, before it was passed.
It seeks to repeal and re-enact the Factory Act, 2004 to make comprehensive provisions for securing the safety, health and welfare of persons at work.
It also seeks to protect others against risks to safety and health with regard to activities of persons at work in addition to establishing the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.
The amended bill contains 111 clauses and clause 83 deals with offences and penalties.
It read in part; ‘’ Any employer who fails to comply with any of the provisions of clauses 29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36 and 37 of this bill relating to the duty of the employer commits an offence.
“The person shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than one year or to a fine of not less than N500,000.
“Both fine and imprisonment in case of an individual and a fine of not less than N2 million for a corporate body and in addition each director or manager of the body shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than one year.
“Clause 31 (1)of the Bill also states that an employer shall after being notified by a female employee that she is pregnant, adapt the working conditions of the female employee in such manner as to prevent occupational exposure.
“This is to ensure that the embryo is afforded the same level of protection as required for members of the public and the employer shall not consider the notification of pregnancy as a reason to exclude the employee from work.
“The employer is also required by this law to ensure that any female employee that is pregnant or nursing a baby is not exposed to ionising radiation at the work place.
On the construction and disposal of machinery, the bill in clause 52 stipulates that any person who manufactures, assembles, sells or lets on hire any machine that does not comply with the requirement of this clause commits an offence.
The person shall be liable to a penalty of N50,000 for the first case of non compliance and N100,000 for every subsequent case of non compliance or N50 million for the first case of non compliance and N500 million for every subsequent case.
The Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the plenary session advised that a conference committee be set up as soon as possible to harmonise it and forward it to the President for his assent.